A civil rights lawsuit filed Tuesday makes several explosive allegations, including that a high-ranking guard at the state prison in Los Lunas raped a male inmate several times in 2011 – including while the inmate was handcuffed – and that the prison’s warden helped to thwart an undercover FBI investigation into the alleged rapes.
Attorney Matthew Coyte filed the lawsuit in state District Court in Valencia County on behalf of former inmate Kenneth Morgan. It alleges excessive force, along with violations of due process and equal protection, and that Morgan’s treatment rose to the level of cruel and unusual punishment. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.
The lawsuit names as defendants Kenneth Carrejo, a former captain at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility, and Anthony Romero, who was warden at the Los Lunas prison at the time of the alleged rapes in 2011.
Carrejo has retired from the Corrections Department, although a spokeswoman could not say when. Romero is now deputy director of the department’s Adult Prisons Division. Neither man could be reached for comment.
“The type of activity that is alleged in this complaint has absolutely no place in New Mexico’s correctional facilities,” state Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said in a written statement to the Journal. “Not only do we vigorously seek to prevent sexual assaults in our prisons, but we will unequivocally seek prosecution of any identified offenders regardless of their role or position.”
According to the lawsuit: Morgan was scheduled to be released from the prison on parole in the summer of 2011. During his time at the prison, the suit claims, Morgan, who is gay, was the target of numerous instances of sexuality based “verbal abuse” from Carrejo, which increased in January 2011.
Shortly thereafter, Carrejo ordered Morgan to his office, where he raped him under threat of physical harm, the lawsuit states.
“Specifically … Carrejo told (Morgan) if he told anybody he would be thrown off the balcony of the laundry building and it would be made to look like an inmate did it,” according to the lawsuit.
Carrejo raped Morgan several more times, the lawsuit states. On one occasion, it claims, Morgan was handcuffed to a pole in front of Carrejo’s desk. And on another, he was handcuffed to a couch in Carrejo’s office.
The rapes continued, according to the lawsuit, until Carrejo retired from the prison.
Morgan was able to collect DNA evidence after at least one of the rapes, the lawsuit states. He kept the evidence in his cell and attempted to get it out of the prison.
He requested help from the FBI, and an agent arranged to enter the prison undercover with Coyte, the attorney, according to the lawsuit and an interview with Coyte.
Morgan “was extremely scared the visit of the FBI agent, if discovered by the prison authorities, would result in his death,” the lawsuit states.
On the morning of the scheduled visit, according to the lawsuit, then-warden Romero received confidential information about the visit from an employee of the Corrections Department.
Morgan was told he would be moved to solitary confinement because an “allegation of sexual misconduct had occurred,” the lawsuit states. Such a move, it claims, would have meant Morgan’s cell would be searched and evidence of the alleged rapes would be discovered.
Meanwhile, Romero called the State Police, and two officers were sent to interrogate Morgan about the alleged rapes, the lawsuit states. Both officers were Carrejo’s brothers.
Morgan “was interrogated by the brothers of his rapist,” according to the lawsuit. “The two state police officers were aware of the nature of (his) allegations before they started to interrogate him. The officers tried to extract information about what evidence (Morgan) had and where it was hidden. The officers said if (he) gave them the evidence they would arrest their brother if he was the rapist.”
State Police Lt. Robert McDonald confirmed that Leroy and Robert Carrejo are the brothers of Kenneth Carrejo. Both officers are employed by the department and stationed in Valencia County.
But only Leroy Carrejo was sent to the Los Lunas prison after the call from Romero, McDonald said. And State Police did not know the alleged offender was Kenneth Carrejo, he said.
“Obviously had we known that he was this guy’s brother, we wouldn’t have sent him because of the big conflict of interest there,” McDonald said, adding that Leroy Carrejo responds to most calls for State Police at the prison. “The officer did know what the case was about, but not who the suspect was because the alleged victim didn’t tell him.”
The lawsuit states that an FBI agent eventually arrived at the prison. Romero told the agent he had been warned by a Corrections Department employee that the agent was coming, and he “had to call State Police to investigate per DOC policy.”
Coyte said in an interview that the agent was able to get the DNA evidence from Morgan and start a criminal investigation, which concluded in the past week or two.
A spokesman for the FBI said the bureau does not comment on reports of possible investigations, nor does it respond to allegations in lawsuits.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office also declined to comment.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal